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Parenting

What Do Kids Need to Succeed in School?

2:00

Does poverty impact a child’s ability to do well in school? Possibly says a new study, but parenting skills play a more important role.

Child development experts say that there are lots of things parents can do to help their young child grow into a successful adult. This study examines the importance of parents, especially those in the low-income bracket, having high educational expectations for their child as well as reading to them and providing computer access and training.

The path to success begins before your child heads off to kindergarten. These findings point to the importance of doing more to prepare children for kindergarten, said study co-author Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The good news is that there are some kids doing really well," he said. "And there are a lot of seemingly disadvantaged kids who achieve much beyond what might be predicted for them because they have parents who are managing to provide them what they need."

The researchers wanted to examine what it takes to help a child succeed in school. The team began by examining statistics to better understand the role of factors like poverty. "We didn't want to just look at poor kids versus rich kids, or poor versus all others," Halfon said.

Conventional thought is that "you'll do better if you get read to more, you go to preschool more, you have more regular routines and you have more-educated parents," Halfon added.

Researchers examined results of a study of 6,000 U.S. English and Spanish- speaking children who were born in 2001. The kids took math and reading tests when they entered kindergarten, and their parents answered survey questions. The investigators then adjusted the results so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of certain types of kids.

Parental expectations played a role in how the children’s future scholastic goals were perceived. For example, only 57 percent of parents of kids who scored the worst expected their child to attend college, compared to 96 percent of parents of children who scored the highest.

The results showed that children who attended preschool scored higher on the tests than children who didn’t. Computer use at home was also more common for the higher scorers -- 84 percent compared to 27 percent. Parents also read more to the kids who scored the best, the findings showed.

Halfon noted that the parent’s own attitude about preschool had a big impact on whether their child attended or not.

Karen Smith, a pediatric psychologist with the University of Texas Medical Branch, praised the study and said it points to the importance of helping poorer parents develop parenting skills and start believing they can really support their children.

"Parents from more affluent families know what to do when it comes to reading to their kids, probably because they've been read to," Smith said. Poorer parents "may not even have the money for books, and maybe they weren't read to themselves."

The study points out that preschool attendance is crucial for helping children develop better learning skills, however, it’s not the only factor that plays an important role.

Smith and Halfon agreed that it's crucial to teach poorer parents how to be better at parenting. Still, Halfon said, "there's no single one magic bullet that's going to solve the problem," not even widening access to preschool. "That's necessary," he said, "but it's probably not sufficient."

Parents that make their child’s education an important part of their childrearing help their children succeed most. Reading to children is a key part of developing a child’s attitude towards studying and expression.  A child that is excited to learn new words and is able to understand the flow of a story learns how to express their own ideas better with less frustration. New challenges aren’t as daunting.

Computer use is essential in this day and age. Libraries can provide access to computers for families that cannot afford to buy one. It takes time and commitment and when money is scarce it’s often twice as difficult, but it can make an enormous difference in a child’s ability to keep up with changing technology as well opening up a new world of opportunities.

Children rely solely on their parent’s guidance and this study points out how much that guidance can change the course of their little one’s lives.

The study is online and comes out in print in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/child-development-news-124/family-income-expectations-key-to-kindergarten-performance-695515.html

 

Your Child

Why Kids Should Learn Handwriting

1:45

I think it’s fair to say that handwriting is becoming a lost art. Computers, tablets and phone keyboards have made actual writing with a pen and paper almost obsolete.

What was once an integral part of a child’s daily school lessons, today, gets about one-fourth the instruction time. What is surprising is that in the not too far future, some kids may never learn penmanship at all.

If keyboards become the most popular form of communication, is there really a need for printing and cursive skills? Yes, according to some educators. Not only will children lose the personal touch of handwriting but will they also lose the benefits learning penmanship offers the developing brain.

Putting pen to paper stimulates brain circuits involved with memory, attention, motor skills, and language in a way punching a keyboard doesn't.

"There is this assumption that we live in the computer age, and we don't need handwriting anymore. That's wrong," says Virginia Berninger, PhD, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington.

Indiana University psychologist Karin James, PhD, recently published a study looking at brain scans of preschoolers before and after they learned to produce letters, either by printing or typing. Before the lesson, the children couldn't decipher between a random shape and a letter, and their brains responded similarly to each. After they learned to hand-draw a letter, brain regions needed for reading lit up at the sight of the letter like they do in a literate adult. Learning to type a letter yielded no such change.

Other studies have shown that preschoolers that practice handwriting read better in elementary school.

Handwriting also requires concentration and teaches brain circuits responsible for motor coordination, vision, and memory to work together. "If in the future we were to take away teaching handwriting altogether, I worry there could be real negative impacts on children's development," James says.

Timed right, cursive also comes with some unique advantages. Berninger's research suggests kids who link their letters via cursive get a better handle on what those words look like and end up being better spellers, she says. Cursive also allows them to compose their thoughts faster than in block handwriting or via typing (at least until about seventh grade, when their brains become mature enough to manage two-handed typing quickly).

Berninger says parents can offer their children extra guidance with learning handwriting even before their child begins school and through their early years. Some children may learn these skills quicker and some may need a little more practice. But on an average:

Preschoolers can strengthen motor skills by playing with clay, stringing beads, working through mazes, and connecting dots with arrows to form letters.

From kindergarten through second grade, children should master block letters.

Third to fourth grade is when kids can begin and master cursive.

By fifth grade, children should continue to write by hand while being introduced to typing by touch (not just hunt and peck.)

As I’ve become more accustomed to using my computer or phone to communicate with others, I’ve noticed that my own handwriting skills are beginning to suffer. Cursive isn’t as fluid and readable as when I handwrote more often and my eye, hand and pen coordination isn’t near as comfortable as it used to be. 

I hope future generations will not lose the art of handwriting, not only because of the developmental benefits it offers, but because each person’s handwriting is unique to them.

Story source: Lisa Marshall, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/handwriting-matters-kids#1

Your Toddler

Does Parents’ Obesity Impact Toddlers’ Developmental Skills?

2:00

Children, whose parents are obese, may show signs of developmental delays by the time they are 3 years old, according to a new study.

The specific developmental problems seem to differ depending on whether the mother, father or both parents are obese, according to researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

"Specifically, mothers' obesity was associated with a delay in achieving fine-motor skills, and fathers' obesity in achieving personal and social skills -- that includes skills for interacting with others," said lead researcher Edwina Yeung. She's an investigator in the institute's division of intramural population health research.

"When both parents were obese, it meant longer time to develop problem-solving skills," she added.

Not everyone agrees with the researchers’ conclusion. At least one pediatric neurologist suggests that the results don’t necessarily prove a direct cause and effect.

And Yeung acknowledges the same. "We used observational data, which doesn't allow us to prove cause and effect, per se," she explained.

What the researchers found was interesting though. Compared with children of normal-weight mothers, children of obese mothers were 67 percent more likely to fail a test of fine-motor skills (using their hands and fingers) by age 3.

In addition, children of obese fathers were about 71 percent more likely to fail tests of personal and social skills, which may indicate how well they relate to and interact with others, by age 3, the researchers said.

Children whose mother and father were both obese were nearly three times more likely to fail tests of problem-solving ability by age 3, according to the researchers’ findings.

Most research into understanding child health and development has focused on mothers and their pregnancies. "Our findings suggest that factors from fathers may also play a role and deserve attention," Yeung said.

One child health expert doesn't think obese parents should be overly concerned by this study.

"Children of obese parents are not doomed to have developmental problems," said Dr. Ian Miller. He is a pediatric neurologist and director of Neuroinformatics at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.

There’s a long list of other conditions that can also impact the brain such as lead-poisoning, sickle cell disease, iron-deficiency anemia, autism, epilepsy or cerebral palsy—any of which can cause developmental problems, Miller said. He isn't ready, however, to add obesity to that list.

But, obesity may increase the risks of these health problems, Miller says. The probability for developmental problems is low among all children, including those of obese parents. "It's not a 'sky is falling' type of scenario," he said.

For the study, Yeung and her colleagues collected data on more than 5,000 women and their children who were part of the Upstate KIDS study, which sought to determine if fertility treatments could affect child development from birth through age 3.

The women were enrolled in the study about four months after giving birth in New York state, excluding New York City, between 2008 and 2010.

About one in five pregnant women in the United States is overweight or obese, Yeung said.

To check the children's development, parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire after doing a series of activities with their children, Yeung said.

The test doesn't diagnose specific problems, but is a screen for potential problems, so that children can be referred for further testing, she explained.

The children were tested at 4 months and six more times through age 3 years. Mothers also gave information on their health and weight, both before and after pregnancy, and the weight of their partners, Yeung said.

More studies are needed to further examine if there is a link between obese parents and their offspring’s developmental skills, Yeung said.

The report was published online Jan. 2 in the journal Pediatrics.

Story Source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20170103/can-parents-weight-hinder-toddlers-development#1

Your Child

“Is Santa Real?”

2:00

This time of year Santa is on the minds of little ones around the world. He’s also on the minds of many parents facing that tricky question, “Is Santa real?”

Who can resist the story of a jolly old man with a beard, driving a sleigh loaded with presents for boys and girls and pulled by flying reindeer?

It’s not true of course, but that doesn’t stop millions of us from passing on the story we learned as children to our own little ones. It’s a tradition that seems to never get old or fade away.

There comes a time however, when children begin to suspect that Santa isn’t real. How a parent handles the moment of truth can affect how a child will react.

Many kids begin to hear that Santa isn’t real from classmates or friends or even an older sibling. Some children may be devastated, and others may shrug it off and move on. You never quite know.

How do you know when it’s time to let children in on the big secret?

"There's really no one right time to tell kids that there's no Santa Claus," says Glen Elliott, Ph.D. Elliott is an associate professor and the Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. "The important thing is to take your cues from the child, and not try to prolong the fantasy for your own enjoyment when they may be ready to give it up."

Follow your child’s lead is a good tip. You know your child best, so consider his or her age and maturity before springing the truth on them. Kids typically begin having some doubts around 6-8 years old.

If your child is beginning to ask questions about Santa being real, it may be a way to confirm their suspicions that he’s not or they could simply want reassurance that Santa will arrive this Christmas.

For instance, your daughter might start getting suspicious about the three different Santas she sees during the course of a day of shopping. Or your son might ask questions about how Santa can get to every house in the world in one night, or how he gets into houses with no chimneys. All logical questions as a child learns how to develop a sequential order to things. Children who begin to ask a lot of logical questions about Santa Claus are probably ready to start hearing the truth about him.

Just as kids give you signals when they're ready to give up Santa, they also let you know when they're not. If a child is too young, they may not even comprehend what you are telling them. The younger the child, the more real Santa seems. Santa is Santa and he comes every Christmas – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

So, how do you make that transition between real Santa and no Santa? There’s several ways to approach the topic.

Help your child understand a more generous and loving side to Santa. The magic of Santa isn’t just about doling out material gifts, but also of spreading joy, kindness and love around the world. You can suggest to your child that we all can be Santas by helping others. We can all spread a little happiness – just like Santa does- by giving to others, even those we don’t know.  The emphasis becomes doing something for someone else.  There are many charities that depend on people to donate gifts for children in need. Plan a shopping date to buy toys or clothes for less fortunate children and let your child pick out what to buy. Let your child be a part of giving not just receiving.

Another approach is to talk about your own childhood and how you too believed there was a Santa. Tell your little one about how you felt when you learned that Santa wasn’t real and how it became ok once you understood. Also, there are many books available with excellent stories on the non-reality of Santa you can read with your child.

Some children are afraid that if there is no Santa, there’s no Christmas. Explain that is never the case. Christmas is much more than Santa and toys. It’s actually a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. For Christians and some other faiths, the story of the birth of Jesus reveals a much deeper meaning that revolves around family, sacrifice, love and giving.

The magic of Christmas doesn’t fade away once you tell your child there is no Santa. Just like every other passage in life, we learn to adjust and keep the beauty of the tradition while creating a new experience to take its place.

Santa may not be a real person, but he does have many lessons to teach us. The best story I’ve read about telling a child the story of Santa comes from writer, Martha Brokenbrough. She penned an article for the New York Times that encapsulates the heart of the Santa story. This is a good start to finishing the question, is Santa real?

The article addresses a question her daughter, Lucy, asked, “Are you Santa?”

Here is a segment of that story:

“Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.”

Story sources: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/when-santa-stops-being-real#1

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/no-longer-believing-in-santa/?_r=0

Parenting

Calming Kid’s Pre-Surgery Anxiety: iPads or Drugs?

1:00

Once you think about it, it makes a lot of sense; a new study shows that iPads work as well as sedative drugs to calm anxious kids before surgery.

Researchers assessed 112 children between 4 and 10 years old in France who had day surgery requiring general anesthesia. Twenty minutes before receiving the anesthesia, 54 kids were given the sedative midazolam and 58 were handed an iPad to distract them.

Guess what they found. The anxiety level for both groups was about the same. However, iPads conferred none of the side effects of sedatives, the researchers said. Also, they said the kids given iPads were easier to anesthetize.

"Our study showed that child and parental anxiety before anesthesia are equally blunted by midazolam or use of the iPad," said Dr. Dominique Chassard and colleagues at Hospital Femme-Mere-Enfant in Bron, France. "However, the quality of induction of anesthesia, as well as parental satisfaction, were judged better in the iPad group."

As any parent knows, iPads and other tablets offer an endless amount of entertainment to help children relax. From music to cartoons to games, there are plenty of programs available to take a child’s mind off of the current situation.  It’s not surprising they would work to help alleviate anxiety before something as scary as surgery. 

The study was to be presented this week at the World Congress of Anesthesiologists meeting in Hong Kong. Researched presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary.

Story source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20160830/ipads-calm-surgery-bound-kids-as-well-as-sedatives

 

Your Child

Worrisome Increase in Kidney Stones in Teens & Children

1:45

Typically, kidney stones occur in men over the age of 25, but new research shows that the annual incidence of kidney stones among children and teens has risen by 16 percent from 1997 to 2012.

Researchers analyzed data from South Carolina from 1997 to 2012 and were surprised to see that the largest increase was with teens (4.7 percent a year), females (3.7 percent a year) and blacks (nearly 3 percent a year).

During the study period, the risk of kidney stones doubled among children, and there was a 45 percent increase in the lifetime risk for women.

Teen girls had the highest rate of increase in kidney stones, and they were more common among females aged 10 to 24 than among males in the same age group. After age 25, kidney stones were more common in men, the study authors said.

"The emergence of kidney stones in children is particularly worrisome, because there is limited evidence on how to best treat children for this condition," said study leader Dr. Gregory Tasian, a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"The fact that stones were once rare and are now increasingly common could contribute to the inappropriate use of diagnostic tests such as CT scans for children with kidney stones, since health care providers historically have not been accustomed to evaluating and treating children with kidney stones," he explained in a hospital news release.

"These trends of increased frequency of kidney stones among adolescents, particularly females, are also concerning when you consider that kidney stones are associated with a higher risk of chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular and bone disease, particularly among young women," Tasian added.

What causes kidney stones? According to the Mayo clinic, kidney stones do not have a single cause, although several factors can increase one’s risk.

Kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances — such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid — than the fluid in your urine can dilute. At the same time, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form.

Some of the risk factors include a family or personal history of kidney stones, dehydration, diets high in protein, sodium and sugar, obesity and other several other medical conditions.

Symptoms can include:

•       Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs

•       Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin

•       Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity

•       Pain on urination

•       Pink, red or brown urine

•       Cloudy or foul-smelling urine

•       Nausea and vomiting

•       Persistent need to urinate

•       Urinating more often than usual

•       Fever and chills if an infection is present

•       Urinating small amounts of urine

If your child or teen exhibits severe back or side pain, pain and nausea and vomiting, pain with fever and chills, blood in the urine or has difficulty passing urine, he or she should be seen immediately by a physician.

There may be a number of reasons for the rise in kidney stone rates, including not drinking enough water and poor eating habits, such as increased salt and decreased calcium intake, the researcher said.

The findings were published online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://teens.webmd.com/news/20160115/rise-in-kidney-stones-in-teens-a-cause-for-concern-study

 

 

Your Child

What Food is Best for Your Child's Breakfast?

1:30

What’s the best choice for your child’s breakfast? According to a new study, eggs. Researchers found that children who eat eggs for breakfast tend to consume fewer calories at lunch and benefited from the protein and vitamins they provide.

The study looked at 40 eight to ten year olds who ate a 350 calorie breakfast-of eggs, porridge or cereal. Between breakfast and lunch they played physically active games.

The children were asked throughout the morning how hungry they were and parents kept a food journal of what else the children ate.

The research, led by Tanja Kral of the university’s Department of Biobehavioural Health Science, found children who ate the eggs for breakfast reduced their calorie intake by about four percent (70 calories) at lunch.

The scientists noted that children who regularly eat more than their daily calorie limit could gain weight, leading to obesity. Eggs contain about 6 grams of high quality protein and are a good source of vitamins and amino acids.

 "I'm not surprised that the egg breakfast was the most satiating breakfast," said Kral. He was however, surprised that the children said that the egg breakfast didn’t actually make them feel fuller than cereal or oatmeal even though they ate less at lunchtime.

”It's really important that we identify certain types of food that can help children feel full and also moderate caloric intake, especially in children who are prone to excess weight gain.“

The study was published in the International journal, Eating Behaviours.

Source: Emma Henderson, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/best-breakfast-for-children-eggs-what-is-scientists-research-a6850501.html

 

 

Your Child

Probiotics Reduce Diarrhea and Respiratory Infections

2.00 to read

A daily dose of probiotics can reduce the occurrences of diarrhea or respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care according to a new study.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the natural and beneficial microorganisms found in the gut. They are often referred to as “good bacteria.”

In a study in Mexico, researchers tested 336 healthy children ages 6 months to 3 years who were attending day care centers. Half received a daily dose of Lactobacillus reuteri, a beneficial gut bacterium naturally present in many foods and in most people; the other half got an identical placebo.

The children were given probiotics or the placebo for 3 months and then followed for another 3 months without the supplements. During the study, 69 episodes of diarrhea were reported in the placebo group and 42 in the group receiving the probiotics. The placebo group had 204 respiratory tract infections, compared with 93 in those taking L. reuteri. And the placebo takers spent an average of 4.1 days on antibiotics, while the supplement users averaged 2.7 days. The differences persisted during the 12-week follow-up.

“What’s notable here is that they used a specific probiotic in a good design and they also did follow-up,” said Stephen S. Morse, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. “This strengthens the evidence for the value of probiotics, but we still have a lot to learn.”

The research group concluded that a daily administration of probiotics in healthy children in day care centers “had a significant effect in reducing episodes and duration of diarrhea and respiratory tract infection, with consequent cost savings for the communities”.

Probiotics have been added to many food and beverage products making it easier for parents to add them to their child’s diet.

The most common food is yogurt but some manufacturers have added probiotics to ice creams, granola bars, cereals, juices and yes…even pizza.

Some parents swear by probiotics saying that they have eased their children’s symptoms of colic, eczema and intestinal problems.

Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but they can also kill the good bacteria and throw a child’s gut flora out of balance - leading to gastrointestinal distress. Previous studies have shown that adding supplements or foods containing probiotics to a child’s diet can have a positive affect on his or her bacterial balance.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and was supported by a grant from a manufacturer of probiotic supplements.

Sources: Nicholas Bakalar, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/probiotic-eases-ills-in-children/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Nancy Gottesman, http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/probiotics-the-friendly-bacteria/

Your Baby

Hearing Test May Help With Autism Diagnosis

1:45

Hearing well is crucial to speech development in young children. A new study suggests that a simple hearing test may help identify children at risk for autism.

Researchers from the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., say they've identified an inner-ear problem in children with autism that may impair their ability to recognize speech.

"This study identifies a simple, safe and noninvasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with autism,” said study co-author Anne Luebke, an associate professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and neuroscience.

"This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes," she said in a university news release.

There are several methods for testing a child’s hearing depending on their age, development and health status.

For the study, Luebke and her colleagues tested the hearing of children between ages 6 and 17 with and without autism. Those with autism had hearing difficulty in a specific frequency (1-2 kilohertz, or kHz) that is important for processing speech.

The degree of hearing impairment was associated with the severity of autism symptoms, according to the study.

Hearing "impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits," said study co-author Loisa Bennetto, an associate professor of clinical and social sciences in psychology.

"While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease," Bennetto said.

If future research confirms the findings, the study authors say the screening could help identify children at risk for autism earlier and perhaps get them services sooner.

The researchers suggested that if treatments could start sooner, they might have a larger impact, as the child grows older.

"Additionally, these findings can inform the development of approaches to correct auditory impairment with hearing aids or other devices that can improve the range of sounds the ear can process," Bennetto said.

According to kidshealth.org, there are symptoms of hearing loss you can look for in newborns and older children:

Even if your newborn passes the hearing screening, continue to watch for signs that hearing is normal. Some hearing milestones your child should reach in the first year of life:

•       Most newborn infants startle or "jump" to sudden loud noises.

•       By 3 months, a baby usually recognizes a parent's voice.

•       By 6 months, a baby can usually turn his or her eyes or head toward a sound.

•       By 12 months, a baby can usually imitate some sounds and produce a few words, such as "Mama" or "bye-bye."

As your baby grows into a toddler, signs of a hearing loss may include:

•       Limited, poor, or no speech

•       Frequently inattentive

•       Difficulty learning

•       Seems to need higher TV volume

•       Fails to respond to conversation-level speech or answers inappropriately to speech

•       Fails to respond to his or her name or easily frustrated when there's a lot of background noise 

The hearing test is noninvasive, inexpensive and does not require a child to respond verbally, so it could be adapted to screen infants, the researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Autism Research.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20160801/hearing-test-may-predict-autism-risk-sooner-study

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/hear.html#

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